STA, 11 June 2021 - A new direct rail line linking Vienna, Ljubljana and Trieste was launched on Friday. The newly-established route is an important milestone in sustainable mobility efforts, said the Slovenian railway operator Slovenske Železnice. The line will run every day, starting this afternoon.
The project will cut journey times for both passengers travelling from the north-east of Slovenia to Trieste and those heading to Vienna from the south-west, a press release by Slovenske Železnice reads.
The line can be also used as a starting point for connecting journeys with final destinations being Venice, Milan, Florence, Rome, Prague, Krakow or Warsaw, among others.
? Wir lassen eine alte Verbindung wiederaufleben, ab sofort geht es ohne Umstieg von Wien über Ljubljana nach Triest. pic.twitter.com/XBUHn6Wf79— ÖBB (@unsereOEBB) June 11, 2021
A ceremony in the afternoon marking the first train journey using the new route will be attended by representatives of Slovenske Železnice, Austrian Federal Railways ÖBB and the Italian Friuli Venezia Giulia region.
The step is also a further upgrade of cooperation between the three countries in railway infrastructure, said Slovenske Železnice passenger transport director Darja Kocjan, adding that the next step would be to promote the line and raise awareness about the environmental aspect of train journeys.
"I'm glad that 164 years after the first train ride on this route this long-awaited direct link between Vienna, Ljubljana and Trieste has been revived," said OBB director Andreas Matthä, noting that the line connected three major European cities with rich cultural programmes.
Graziano Pizzimenti, an infrastructure advisor for the Friuli Venezia Giulia region, said that the project was not just an establishment of a new line but also a sign of a return to normal after the pandemic had upended society.
In Slovenia the train will stop at: Maribor, Pragersko, Celje, Laško, Zidani Most, Trbovlje, Zagorje, Ljubljana, Logatec, Postojna, Pivka, Divača, and Sežana. Visit the Slovenian Railway website
STA, 10 June 2021 - The government has changed the list of countries and territories placed in the red zone in terms of the Covid-19 epidemic to exclude, among others, the Croatian Adriatic area, Germany and the Czech Republic. The relevant decree adopted on Thursday will enter into force on Saturday and be valid until 20 June
The changes also include Turkey being moved from the dark red list to the red list, the Government Communication Office said.
Also removed from the red list are Switzerland, the Vatican, the Austrian state of Tyrol, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Poland, Slovakia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia. Meanwhile, the Portuguese territory of the Azores has been red-listed.
As of Saturday, border crossing in air traffic within the EU and Schengen Area is also possible outside the three check-points determined for international traffic.
The areas not put on the red and dark red list are considered as having no high risk of novel coronavirus infection.
Persons coming from such areas to Slovenia may enter the country without being ordered to quarantine at home if they prove that they had continuously resided there for at least five days before entering Slovenia.
STA, 9 June 2021 - The Postojna Cave, one of the main Slovenian natural landmarks, will reopen its door to visitors on Wednesday after a 231-day closure, the longest in its history, due to Covid-19 restrictions. "We are opening the door with enthusiasm, though with responsibility," the operator of the cave said in a press release.
Postojnska Jama added that it was happy to announce the reopening of the "queen of the underground" and the majority of attractions in the Postojna Cave Park.
The refurbished Hotel Jama will start to admit guests again on 18 June, while Predjama Castle will be reopened at the end of June, as the access path is being reconstructed.
The cave operator said that it had acquired the Green&Safe certificate from the Slovenian Tourist Board (STO) to ensure safe conditions for visitors in terms of the Covid-19 epidemic.
"We will also make sure physical distancing is observed in the legendary cave train and during visits to the cave in small groups," the company said.
Postojnska Jama reminded the visitors of the baby olms that were hatched in the cave in 2016 and are celebrating their fifth birthday these days.
"The baby dragons are healthy and have grown 1.5 centimetres this year. The largest among them measures 14 centimetres already," adds the invitation to the reopening.
Are things really getting back to normal? Another sign of a move in the right direction is the return of Restaurant Week, when top restaurants offer set menus at special prices. This year it’s 99 Restaurants offering meals at €19, €21 and €25, with locations around the country.
Tables are limited, and bookings were open from yesterday 7 June, with reservations available from 18 to 27 June. Don’t delay and check out what’s on offer here.
STA, 5 June 2021 - Slovenia now recognises a negative rapid antigen test in addition to a negative PCR test for those who wish to avoid quarantine on entering Slovenia.
From Saturday, individuals who produce a negative result of a PCR or rapid antigen test not older than 48 hours are allowed to enter Slovenia without being ordered to quarantine even if they arrive from a red-listed country.
What are the red list countries? Find out from the government website…
A PCR or rapid antigen test is acceptable if it was performed in a member state of the EU or the Schengen Area, Australia, Israel, Canada, New Zealand, Russia, Serbia, the UK and the US and, at international air travel checkpoints, Turkey.
Persons who have recovered from Covid-19 or who have been vaccinated against it have been able to enter without restrictions for a while.
STA, 4 June 2021 - In a nationwide prevention campaign for the safety of cyclists between 17 and 30 May, officers detected 1,241 offences among cyclists and 204 among motorcyclists, the police said on their website. They will also increase control checks on single-track motor vehicles, according to the Traffic Safety Agency (AVP).
During the 14-day campaign, the police issued 1,020 warnings and 49 cyclists were caught drunk-driving. More detailed information on the number and types of road traffic offences was provided by the Maribor and Koper police departments.
Police officers in Maribor recorded 252 infringements during the period. Eight cyclists were drunk-driving. The officers issued 87 fines and 178 warnings.
The Koper Police Department carried out 48 blood alcohol tests and found three cyclists with alcohol levels two times higher than the legal limit. They detected 59 infringements and issued 46 warnings and eleven fines.
The police found that the most common offences among cyclists were riding on an unsuitable surface or without lights, using a mobile phone while riding and not wearing a safety helmet.
The AVP also announced increased controls in view of the worsening road safety situation for drivers of single-track motor vehicles, as almost half of the fatalities on roads in May were motorcycle drivers.
As a result, all eight Slovenian police departments have already started putting up silhouettes of police officers, which help in slowing down the traffic, according to 2019 data. Average speeds are expected to drop by up to 20%, and the AVP also said that police would periodically carry out aerial traffic monitoring.
According to provisional data from the AVP, 138 motorcycle riders and 90 moped riders had been involved in road accidents up until the end of May. Almost two thirds of the accidents were their own fault, the agency added.
The AVP continues to highlight drunk-driving as a major problem, as eleven out of 85 motorcyclists who caused accidents were driving under the influence of alcohol.
STA, 3 June 2021 - In order to expand the use of digital Covid certificates once they enter into force, the government is expanding the number of points where residents will be able to get their digital identity, Public Administration Minister Boštjan Koritnik told the press on Thursday.
In addition to administrative units, these points will include vaccination centres, social work centres, the Financial Administration and other points.
Koritnik said that residents who do not have digital identity should visit one of the registration points, where they would be identified by means of a valid identification document with a photograph.
The SIGENCA and SMSPASS certificates will be free of charge for citizens, he said, adding that digital identity would enable them to access the national portal zVem.
In addition to certificates of convalescence, vaccination and PCR test results, the portal enables access to other health information about individuals and a series of other public administration services, said Health Minister Janez Poklukar.
At the portal, Slovenians will soon be able to get the European digital green certificate, which will enable them easier travel and crossing of borders in the EU.
According to Poklukar, the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) is gearing up for the certificate, with a production test with the European Commission scheduled for this week.
The number of residents who have acquired digital identity is increasing sharply, as 66,000 people did so this year alone, which is equal to the number for the entire 2020.
In addition to the mentioned points for registration of digital identity, it is also planned that this will be soon possible at the application point of the Justice Ministry and units of the Health Insurance Institute of Slovenia, Koritnik said.
Andrej Šter, the head of the Foreign Ministry's consular service, has meanwhile told the STA that the digital green certificate is expected to be introduced at the EU level on 1 July.
The list of countries that enable persons who tested negative, are vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 to travel freely is expanding, but this is not the case in all EU and Schengen Area member states.
This is based on bilateral or regional agreements, Šter said, adding that the card received upon vaccination could be used to enter Croatia and Hungary, while medical certificate in at least two languages was required for other countries.
"The certificate that in addition to Slovenian is usually also in English is used by all EU member states, and some other countries with which we have reached agreements, that is the UK, US, Turkey, Russia and Serbia."
STA, 2 June 2021 - The government has changed the decree on the conditions for entering Slovenia to recognise a negative rapid antigen test in addition to a negative PCR test. The change enters into force on 5 June and is valid until 13 June, the government said in a press release. Some measures in the services sector have also been relaxed.
Persons who produces a negative result of a PCR or rapid antigen test not older than 48 hours will be allowed to enter Slovenia without being ordered to quarantine, the government decided at Wednesday's session.
A PCR or rapid antigen test is acceptable if it was performed in a member state of the EU or the Schengen Area, Australia, Israel, Canada, New Zealand, Russia, Serbia, the UK and the US and, at international air travel checkpoints, Turkey.
There are no changes for persons who have recovered from Covid-19 or who have been vaccinated, as they can enter Slovenia without being ordered to quarantine.
The government also relaxed some restrictions in the services sector.
Accommodation providers with up to 60 units will be able to fill up to 45 as of Monday, and those with more than 60 units will be allowed to fill up to 75% of their capacity. This also applies to camping sites.
Swimming pools will be available at up to 75% of capacity for visitors who are either tested, vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19.
The ban on consuming food and drink at the takeaway points has been lifted and shopping centres will need to reserve 10 sq metres for each customer instead of 20 sq metres, the Government Communication Office said.
The rules for the convention industry have also been slightly relaxed.
STA, 1 June 2021 - Slovenia is among the eleven EU member states where all bathing water sites, on the coast and inland, are suitable for bathing, a report on European bathing water quality for 2020 shows. The group also features Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Croatia, Lithuania, Malta, Romania and Slovakia.
Europe had almost 22,280 bathing sites last year. In 2014-2020, the share of "excellent" bathing sites stood at 85-87% for coastal sites and at 77-81% for inland waters.
Slovenia's Environment Agency (ARSO) said as it presented the data that water quality is always a bit better on the coast due to the sea's greater capacity to self-clean.
ARSO said Slovenia was also one of ten EU member states which provided a sufficient number of water measurements during the bathing season.
Slovenia's bathing waters on the coast had been above EU average for years, because they were all of excellent quality until two years ago.
Following a pollution in 2019, one site, Žusterna, is now rated "satisfactory", lowering the excellence status to 95.2% for 2019 and 2020, ARSO said.
The share of excellent inland bathing sites in Slovenia in 2020 was at 76.9%, on a par with EU levels.
There were meanwhile 296 sites with poor bathing water in Europe in 2020, meaning bathing is not allowed. This is 1.3% of all sites.
The bulk were in Italy (93), followed by France (78), while Italy also led the way in terms of the number of sites where bathing was permanently banned over five years.
ARSO's report for 2020 shows that 85% or 40 of a total of 47 bathing sites in Slovenia were excellent, 8.5% good, 6.4% satisfactory and none poor.
First test results from this year indicate that bathing waters will also be very good this season.
Explore an interactive map of all Slovenia’s bathing water sites, and if you like the look of the bay at the top of the page, learn more about Strunjan here
STA, 1 June 2021 - The 69th Ljubljana Festival, starting on 1 July and running until early September, will feature international stars, including Anna Netrebko, Placido Domingo and Martha Argerich, as well as Slovenian performers, said the organisers on Monday when they unveiled the festival's programme.
The Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra, based in Saint Petersburg and conducted by Valery Gergiev, will perform on the opening night. The orchestra will play, among others, a piece by Slovenian composer Marjan Kozina (1907-1966) titled Bela Krajina after a region in the south-east of the country.
The closing evening, on 8 September, will also feature music by a Slovenian composer. Visitors will be able to hear for the first time a new piece by Vito Žuraj, born in 1979, which will be performed by the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra.
Other acts include, among others, Russian soprano Netrebko, Spanish tenor Domingo, Slovenian soprano Sabina Cvilak, German tenor Jonas Kaufmann, Argentine-Swiss classical concert pianist Martha Argerich, Slovenian flautist Irena Grafenauer, the Vienna Boys' Choir, the Amsterdam-based Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra led by Daniel Harding, the Baltic Sea Philharmonic and the Friuli Venezia Giulia Choir.
The Maribor opera and ballet ensembles will stage Giacomo Puccini's Madama Butterfly and Peer Gynt by Edward Clug, the ballet ensemble's artistic director and star choreographer. Both performances of his Peer Gynt were sold out at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow in 2019.
Those craving tango will be able to enjoy a performance by Slovenian Andreja Podlogar and Blaž Bertoncelj. Moreover, music lovers who were disappointed last year when Lolita was cancelled could rejoice as the musical is part of this year's programme as well as another audience darling Chicago.
The festival will also provide two delights for theatregoers - And the Century Will Blush. The Kocbek Case, a play about Edvard Kocbek, an acclaimed Slovenian poet, author, intellectual and anti-fascist, based on the book by Andrej Inkret and directed by Matjaž Berger, as well as Birds of a Kind, a co-production directed by Ivica Buljan and written by Wajdi Mouawad, a Lebanese-Canadian author famous for politically engaged works.
The head of the festival Darko Brlek said at Monday's press conference that the festival had been deemed a cultural event and not a gathering, so the cap on visitors will be milder this year compared to 2020 with a 1-metre distance being enforced between seats.
Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Janković meanwhile announced that the renovation of the Križanke open-air venue had been given a green light. A roof over the venue will be set up already this year in a move that will enable performances also in the event of rain.
The festival will be an opportunity to help revive the cultural and hospitality sectors, the mayor noted.
Summer is more or less here, and with vaccinations moving fast across Europe things are finally starting to open up again, so it looks like we all may get a season to enjoy. And while it’s the inside activities like going to a restaurant or show that’ll be the big novelty, the good weather means most will be spending their time in the fresh air – whether in street cafés or town parks, gardens or the great outdoors. It’s this last option where Slovenia really excels, with varied topography and landscapes offering a wealth of activities and scenes to enjoy all within close proximity, making it the ideal location for an active vacation.
Which is the perfect introduction to Steve Hartley and his work at Explorer Camps. The Australian native came to Slovenia well over a decade ago and worked in the field of education before moving on to the world of summer camps with offerings for four different age groups – 6-9, 10-12, 13-14, and 15-17 years old – that have attracted children from around 40 different countries. At the camps children enjoy real, 3D adventures outdoors, with the full surround sound and profound sensory stimulation that only nature can provide. A real escape, at least for a few days, from the deadening distractions and look-at-me pings of technology and screens, with a focus on building real-life skills, such as collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and communication, through a fun and engaging outdoor summer programs that are run by native English-speaking staff.
As the world gets ready to go out again, we got in touch with Steve and asked him a few questions…
Can you describe Explorer Camps in three words?
Only three words? Wow. OK – Love. Life. Nature.
Love is at the heart of everything do at camps. We honestly love and believe in what we’re doing on camp and that transfers to our campers which helps them develop into more compassionate young adults.
Life is what we’re trying to prepare our campers for. A real-life away from technology and learning skills not commonly taught at school.
Nature is our classroom. Our international campers have real-life lessons on a raft or SUP or on a hike surrounded by the great outdoors.
How are the skills you teach at summer camp different to what’s taught at school?
Schools teach knowledge, but life requires wisdom. In the rush to grade students, education consistently overlooks skills such as independence, critical thinking, creativity, team work, communication, self-confidence, determination. So, there’s this void between what school teaches and what young adults need to start work.
Our Life Skills Program aims to cover that gap. As a result, our parents feel more comfortable knowing their child will return from camp happier, more independent, organised, and better prepared for life. We supplement what school isn’t able to offer.
With a 5 / 5 from 60 Google Reviews it seems that the Explorer community agrees with you about summer camp being the place to learn real-life skills.
You’ve done your homework!
It’s always nice receiving positive feedback from parents so our Google Reviews certainly leaves all of us with an amazing feeling. Considering over 70% of our families come back every year, it certainly does indicate that our camps are doing something right.
There’s a process to bringing this program to life.
The main part is training and creating a particular type of attitude. Our experienced mentors are motivated to actively find ‘teachable moments’ where they guide campers to reach a better understanding of life, themselves and those around them. The old “Give a person a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a person to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” is exactly how we see it. We prefer to teach our campers how to fish.
You teach campers to fish. Literally and figuratively! The outdoors plays such an important part of your camps. Why is that?
How much has the average child spent in nature in the past year or so?
Well, according to research, children should spend a minimum of 180 mins per day in nature however in the last few years they’d be lucky to get 1/3 of that. It’s not ideal, but at the same time it’s challenging for children and parents alike to get that time with all of the restrictions that have been in place.
Our vision has always been to help our international parents help their children. Being surrounded by nature, and having very little mass tourism to compete with makes it even easier to do. An average day will see our campers spend a minimum of 8 hours in the outdoors participating in activities such as rafting, hiking, SUPing, biking, paintball, a high ropes course etc.
We believe that the benefits of children being away from their screens and in nature is immeasurable. In these times our children are in desperate need of a stimulating outdoor environment minus technology. Which is what we provide at Explorer Camps.
Clearly your Explorer family feels this ‘love’ you talk about. But how do your first-time parents experience it without having ever gone to a camp?
We love having honest heart-felt discussions with our families. More often than not I have a personal video meeting with first time parents just to hear their own concerns and listen to their expectations. And from there it grows.
This love starts with me, and filters down throughout all of our team and can easily be seen in many of our approaches.
Parents can clearly see love in your approaches. Can you give us an example?
Camper mental health. It’s an unheard of topic not only in Slovenia but in Europe. However, it’s something we take very seriously because we honestly care about all of the children that step onto our camp grounds and see it as our responsibility to ensure they step out of the grounds better, happier and healthier young adults.
What does mental health mean for the children at Explorer Camps?
These unprecedented times have brought unprecedented conditions. Many people are calling it a ‘collective trauma’ in that each one of us have lost something. Whether that be a loved one. Or an important life moment such as a wedding, or graduation, or a birthday. Or income. Or belongings. Everyone has lost something. Children especially.
The reality is that our kids are suffering, and even though this may well be done in silence, they’re still suffering.
On camp we do our best to understand mental health. We’re aware of it, acknowledge it and train for it. We do our best to support all of our campers, their families and each other. We do so by building a warm, caring and positive environment where our campers feel a sense of belonging and trust. All away from electronic devices.
Being a technology-free camp, this helps in dealing with mental health issues?
Well, there have been studies showing screen time amongst teenagers is over 185% more when compared to pre COVID times. And it’s only going to get worse. We want to get away from this dependence on electronic devices, even if it’s just for a week.
Explorer Camps has always been 100% technology-free and this will never change. Face-to-face communication is paramount when it comes to our camp community as we see it as a vital tool to battling mental health issues. And, believe it or not but … the campers actually enjoy it.
Technology addiction is just the tip of the iceberg though, but it plays its part. The key is developing a truly positive atmosphere on camp where our children not only feel a sense of belonging but also can simply just be themselves.
What part do your counsellors play in creating this healthy environment?
“A company is only as good as its employees” definitely rings true at Explorer Camps.
We honestly believe our counsellors are second to none in this region and the part they play in building and maintaining a health camp environment is massive. They’re truly exceptional, and are the key reason why over 70% of our campers come back every year which always comes back to the key point of camp. We love what we do and our attitude shows this.
That being said, continual improvement drives the success of Explorer Camps every year. Our training is paramount, so we take it very seriously. This year our staff have access to an online library with video lessons, quizzes, and readings all created to help them improve as professionals and thus provide a better environment for our Explorer families.
The most important question to ask these days – are you going ahead with camps this summer?
Putting it into simple terms. YES! Most programs in July are full, and August is quickly filling up. We can’t wait.
Where does this confidence about running in 2021 come from?
I guess we look back at closing in 2020 and the reasons why we made that choice then.
At that point no camps around the world had truly experienced a Covid summer. And even though there was a lot of very well researched protocols for successfully running summer camps during the pandemic we didn’t believe Explorer Camps, the hotel nor society were prepared enough for dealing with Covid. So, we made that heart breaking choice to cancel camps with our Explorer families’ health and safety in mind.
However, we learnt a lot from that experience and ensured coming into the 2021 season that our camps are ready under nearly all circumstances. The hotel is better prepared. We’ve already trained our staff in our protocols for camps. Society is in a better place with all of the vaccinations etc.
All of this together gives us this confidence to push forward knowing that we’re in a much better position to ensure our Explorer families stay covid free.
How are you ensuring your children remain safe and healthy this summer?
The key, based on research and practical experience, is to have a multilayered approach to dealing with the virus. We can’t rely on only one method, but put into place a number of overlapping strategies to ensure maximum protection. Some of the main points are:
Will the amazing camp experience be affected by this at all?
The reality is actually quite exciting. The magic and power that Explorer Camps is renowned for building will be stronger than ever and go beyond anything we’ve ever created!
In fact, these protocols really don’t impact the structure of the camps other than simply adding a little more focus to hygiene. All of the activities are running as usual whether that be rafting or stand-up paddling or paintball or ziplining. Everything is the same but done only within the smaller groups.
We’ve spent the last two years dreaming, planning, researching and looking for ways to elevate the camp experience even more. We’re honestly so excited about what’s waiting for all of our families in July and August and reconnecting them all with nature!
Lastly. Are you looking forward to the summer?
You can’t tell? YES! Can’t wait to have our campers back on camp having fun, learning, growing, and back to living life! We all love summer camps here in Europe. Can’t wait!
For those interested, make sure you check out our website but remember … July is pretty much full and August only has a few spots left.